Friday, November 11, 2011

Return to Fantasy: El Duque Azul Back From The Dead!

It's been about a year since I've played ANY Fantasy...but all that's about to change! Why? Read on!

Most of the locals, myself included, got down on Fantasy when we realized how overpowering the magic phase can be in 8th edition. Almost all of the changes made in 8th edition I thought were fantastic: the emphasis on large units of guys that used to be considered worthless I thought was brilliant.

That the same large unit can be made useless or dead by one douche-caster with a power scroll made it just irritating.

But here I am, with a million points in five different Fantasy armies...and dammit, I want to play!

I've not kept up with the latest army books at all. In fact, that was another reason Fantasy lost its appeal for me: having to buy those hardback books kind of irritated me. I have no idea what the new Orcs do; nor the Tomb Kings or Ogres (though they do have some incredible new models for all three of those armies!) However, I do want to "get back in to things", so have been assembling Vampire parts a few nights this week.

I'd played Vampires a bit locally a few years ago, though not competitively, during 7th Edition. I have a lot of "this and that", but primarily a Ghoul heavy collection with a little bit of everything else (except Blood Knights).

I'd come up with a list last year after having done pretty well with my Daemons in 8th. I'd used tournament "winnings" to buy enough boxes of Ghouls and Grave Guard to do this, but only used it on-line...the boxes have languished in a plastic bag for almost a year, waiting to be assembled.

Well, wait no longer, my plastic undead minions! Go forth on the table of battle, and be slaughtered gloriously!

Here's the list I'm putting together, though this is very subject to change:

2500 Pts - Vampire Counts Roster

Vampire Lord (1#, 445 pts)
   1 Vampire Lord, 445 pts (General; Vampire; Level 3 Upgrade; Hand Weapon; Undead)
      1 Skull Staff
      1 Helm of Commandment
      1 Master of the Black Arts
      1 Summon Ghouls
      1 Dark Acolyte
      1 0. Invocation of Nehek

Vampire (1#, 190 pts)
   1 Vampire (Battle Standard Bearer), 190 pts (Vampire; Hand Weapon; Battle Standard Bearer; Undead)
      1 Black Periapt
      1 Master of the Black Arts
      1 0. Invocation of Nehek

Necromancer (1#, 110 pts)
   1 Necromancer, 110 pts (Hand Weapon; Undead)
      1 Staff of Damnation
      1 0. Invocation of Nehek
      1 2. Vanhel's Danse Macabre

Necromancer (1#, 95 pts)
   1 Necromancer, 95 pts (Hand Weapon; Undead)
      1 Dispel Scroll
      1 0. Invocation of Nehek
      1 2. Vanhel's Danse Macabre

Crypt Ghouls (10#, 88 pts)
   9 Crypt Ghouls, 88 pts (Poisoned Attacks; Undead)
      1 Crypt Ghast

Crypt Ghouls (40#, 328 pts)
   39 Crypt Ghouls, 328 pts (Poisoned Attacks; Undead)
      1 Crypt Ghast

Crypt Ghouls (40#, 328 pts)
   39 Crypt Ghouls, 328 pts (Poisoned Attacks; Undead)
      1 Crypt Ghast

Grave Guard (30#, 465 pts)
   29 Grave Guard, 465 pts (Always Strikes Last; Musician Mus; Standard Bearer Std; Hand Weapon; Great Weapon; Heavy Armour; Undead)
      1 The Banner of the Barrows
      1 Seneschal (Always Strikes Last; Hand Weapon; Great Weapon; Heavy Armour)

Varghulf (1#, 175 pts)
   1 Varghulf, 175 pts (Vampire; Causes Terror; Hatred; Regenerate; Thunder Stomp; Undead)

Cairn Wraith (5#, 275 pts)
   4 Cairn Wraiths, 275 pts (Always Strikes Last; Great Weapon; Causes Terror; Ethereal; Skirmishers; Undead)
      1 Tomb Banshee (Causes Terror; Ethereal; Undead)

Composition Report:
Points of Lords: 445
Points of Heroes: 395
Points of Core: 744
Points of Special: 465
Points of Rare: 450
Total Roster Cost: 2499

Now I really don't know how this will work...I'm kind of in a vacuum. I don't know what kind of "combinations" I'm going to have to deal with, or how vulnerable I'm going to be to popular army builds. I know one very major glaring "weakness" here...that Vampire Lord is stone-cold naked, making this whole army reliant on my ability to keep him out of danger. I smell a list-change coming! :)

I'd originally intended to him to have a nice 2+ armour save and 4+ ward save...easily doable, but I wanted to see if the points on the Skull Staff would allow me to really abuse the Magic Phase like I want to.

Here's my thought: there's only one spell in the game that lets me Charge in the magic phase, and that's Vanhel's Danse Macabre. I'm going to try to abuse the hell out of it!

So here's a "little" Wall of Text(tm) about what I want out of each unit.


I have four casters here, and they have very few jobs:

-First, spam Invocation so whatever "dies" becomes "undead" as soon as possible;
-Second, spam Danse Macabre so I can get the charges I want, and almost more importantly so I can get ASF and Re-rolls!
-Third: use that Staff of Damnation to leverage #2 in to a tremendous amount of attacks in the Magic Phase
-Fourth: anything else is just gravy

In order to do those things, I need lots of Power Dice. With the Periapt and two Masters of the Black Arts, I should average 12 power dice. If I go Ordo-style and roll snake-eyes, I still get 7 dice. I should almost always have significantly more dice than my opponent...are Dwarfs still popular, with their Dice-stealing tricks?...and with El Duque's +5 to cast, I should overpower the Magic Phase.

Moreover, the top two things I need them to cast are "spammable"...casting Danse over and over until you run out of Power Dice will be S.O.P. If I throw two dice at Danse, I'll average a result of 12. With a Level 4 Wizard, opponents will likely then need to roll an 8 or higher, so odds say they need to use 3 dice. Not likely they'll have more than 6 Dispel, so I throw 4 Power Dice (of my 12!) to take away 6 of your Dispels...that leaves me 8 Power Dice unmolested. That will be, if all is going well, 3 casts of Danse or Invocation virtually guaranteed (if using 2 dice, El Duque only fails on snake-eyes), with 2 dice left for the Staff of Damnation.

El Duque is also packing the Helm of Commandment, allowing him to pass on his sexy Weapon Skill 7...of course everything in the army could benefit from this, but it will most likely be going on the Grave Guard, allowing them to hit on 2+ (see below). With Summon Ghouls as his final power, he's getting +6 on the roll to cast Invocation, making even single-die attempts very possible and requiring the enemy to roll 2 dispel dice to stop it.

The other Vampire, Dretchen the Dark, is the BSB. She's carrying the Black Periapt, and is also a Master of the Black Arts, but is otherwise bereft of equipment of any kind.

There are two Necromancers (I'll get photos up when they're mounted on bases...they're mid-80's Chaos Sorcerers that look like really twisted and evil Necromancers...good stuff!) that fill this out. One of them carries a Dispel Scroll...I don't know if Scrolls are as mandatory as they used to be, but I'd feel naked without one; the other carries the Staff of Damnation. I give them both Invocation and Danse. These guys are cheap easy ways to get Danse and allow me to spam Invocation with 1 die...if he fails, no biggie, on to the next.

Another possible weakness is that all these characters will be packed in to one Bunker unit. I will be experimenting with running them in other units, or just hiding them solo behind will take some experience to see how it works. There are lots of big weapons and spells that will wipe them all out of the unit...scary!

Ghouls, Ghouls, and more Ghouls!

I think Ghouls are still considered to be the premier Troop choice for Vampires. T4, lots of Poison attacks...what's not to like?

I think these guys will be one of the few units that will work well in a Horde formation. They won't run away when they lose (though will lose extra guys), so if they're big enough to take losses for a couple rounds of combat that should be able to win by attrition. They're dishing out 40 attacks to their front...if Danse is on them with rerolls, that's a mess of wounds. Enemy units that don't have decent Armour will likely be decimated.

So two big Hordes, with a small unit that will be beefed up by El Duque on turn 1 (Note: I need another box or two of Ghouls for any made for this purpose). I'll try to get this guys in to any enemy unit that isn't sporting a huge armour save...anything better than 4+ will be a struggle for these guys I think.

Some math-hammer: all 40 attacks with rerolls gives 30 hits, 5 of those are Poison wounds; the other 25 hits give 12 more wounds on T3, or 8 on T4. 13 wounds on T4 isn't horrible, and 17 on T3 should be pretty decisive.


Grave Guard are pretty fun. They're not incredible powerhouses, but with the ease they can be Invoked back, and their potential damage output, they do ok. I had kind of a different concept here, applying a combination of Horde, Banner of the Barrows, Great Weapons, the Helm of Commandment, Danse Macabre, and the Staff of Damnation.

Now some of those things are variable...they won't always work, will have died, dispelled, engaged, etc. But with how they are to start, they're dishing out 30 S6 attacks to their front. Against WS4, T4, that's 20 hits (hit on 3s from Banner), and 16 wounds with -3 to the Armour Save roll. That's pretty potent, though with Always Strikes Last they'll surely lose some of their number before swinging.

But what happens when the stars align and this all works out?

Well first, they get to charge from a long ways off. March them 8", then get that nice 8" charge for a health 16". It's not super great...but should allow me to charge more often than not.

Now the Charge is done, I cast Danse on them again. Now they have re-rolls and Always Strikes First (ASF cancels their ASL, so hitting at a reasonable I3).

Now El Duque uses hit Helm of Cheese, granting the unit WS7.

And last, but not least, the Staff of Damnation is used.

In the magic phase, we then have 30 attacks, hitting on 2s with rerolls for 29 hits. Against T4 that's 24 wounds, with -3 armour save...including 5 Killing Blows.

Then, in the Melee Phase, they get to do it all over again. That's going to be in the area of 50 wounds done in one turn. What can live through that?

Now, I absolutely understand that this is the "perfect storm" and will not likely happen that way. The spells might not be there, the Helm might be unavailable, some (many? most??) of the Grave Guard will be dead already, all 10 of the front rank may not get in BTB, etc. But the threat and possibility is there. This is an extremely potent unit, that if I can use properly will wreck things...maybe? I hope!


Now these things honestly I took more for fun than anything, but I do love some Cairn Wraiths!

These guys aren't overly powerful, and are probably an extreme waste of points in this magic-heavy version of the game. However, I'd like to see if I can get them to work, because the models are super fun, and they really will be hard for armies with few magic attacks to deal with. My ideal target for them would be models with good Armour Saves and no magic attacks...heavy cavalry, elite infantry, or maybe even ranged troops. Anything that dishes out a million attacks that will shred my Ghouls or Grave Guard. All I need these guys to do is tie up something killy, overcome any static Combat Resolution, and hope Mariah can generate some wounds to kill the unit.

I don't expect Mariah to really generate any exceptional kills, but it just takes a few every turn (with them not dieing off to Static) to really make a difference. If she can kill off some high-value good AS troops, great! If not, at least she's fun.

Either way, this is a unit that will affect how the enemy deploys and moves. This is what I think their greatest advantage to me will be...their indirect power instead of their direct.

And last, my beloved Varghulf!

By more recent standards, he's not much of a monster. I think he was the first of the new crop of ubiquitous Rare monster-meanies, and "power-creep" has left him a bit lacking...but he's still fast enough to project some threat. I think he'll be great to take on enemy "speed" units, shooters, or going war-machine hunting. An oft over-looked rule he has: Vampire. This means he can march when away from the General, or allow other units (like Wraiths!) to march when within 6".

His WS5 with Hatred means he'll be hitting with 4 attacks more often than not, and at S5 he'll do 2-3 wounds to T4. Then Thunderstomp to help finish things off. He won't win fights against big units on his own, but he will work to tie up smaller units. Sadly, despite his fearsome visage, he's a bit squishy...T5 with only Regeneration doesn't go very far!

I expect I'll use him to drive off enemy flankers; threaten rear-echelon shooting troops; and provide March bubble to other troops.

So that's the army. It's pretty slow, relying on three big Hordes of M4 infantry, but I think it's pretty resilient, can really dish out some serious damage, and should be able to completely dominate the Magic Phase. It's only got a handful of Deploys (7!), but since my three Hordes will take over most of the table anyway, it's almost a moot point Also, I've precious little going for me in Blood & Glory mission...won't be easy to win that one!

My biggest worry is if I'll be able to keep the extremely squishy supporting casters in the Ghoul Bunker alive! I'll have to move really well to keep them close enough to provide support while avoiding getting killed by every gun on the table!

My good friend Brad has suggested the Lore of Death for El Duque instead of Vampire Lore. I am definitely considering this, as I think there are great benefits. He'd lose his lvl 4, dropping to Level 3 to get Forbidden Lore, but the potential tricks are interesting. I'll get some games in with Vampire and see how it goes...hell, maybe the whole list is "pants", as the British say, and will have to be scrapped!

Look for Battle Reports coming soon!

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